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Ireland/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.2 Heritage issues and policies

The division of heritage management and services between various government departments between 2000 and 2010 along with increased devolution to local government, has generally been decried as representing an illogical disintegration of the sector. The Heritage Council is the only heritage body that takes an integrated approach to natural and cultural heritage not in state care. In 2006 the Heritage Council established a Museum Standards Programme for Ireland. A voluntary programme, it has attracted involvement from across the cultural spectrum from national institutions to small, volunteer led organisations. To date, of the 52 participants in the programme, 15 museums have achieved full accreditation and 10 have been awarded interim accreditation. The Museum Standards Programme for Ireland (MSPI) aims to benchmark and raise professional minimum standards in the museum sector. 

The work of the Heritage Council reaches into the heart of communities throughout Ireland through its network of 28 County Heritage Officers, who are employed by the Local Authorities. County Heritage Officers provide a structured and co-ordinated approach to managing and promoting local heritage and have played an important role in Local Authorities since 1999. Heritage Officers aim to ensure that heritage receives due consideration at local level and provide a valuable connection for the Heritage Council to local communities..

The Heritage Council was left as an independent statutory body, detailing the Economic Value of Ireland's Historical Environment as a contribution of EUR 1.5 to the economy and direct support for 25 000 jobs. Its publication in 2012 of "Supporting Jobs, Education and Tourism in Local Communities" made a strong play for its public service remit and record, and the flexibility that engendered that work.

The Heritage Council's recent role in the formulation of policy is marked by several submissions to government on key issues. In a submission on the consultation for Our Ocean Wealth, Council welcomed the proposed Integrated Marine Plan for Ireland that integrated policies be developed for our seas. Council also made a submission to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government on the draft Framework for Sustainable Development in Ireland and to the Department of Agriculture on the Rural Development Plan relating specifically to Less Favoured Areas. In 2013 it produced a substantial body of research on the Onshore Wind Farm Sector in Ireland and made a submission to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources on the development of a new electricity power grid which has the potential to have a significant impact on cultural and natural heritage assets.

The Heritage Council has a specific role "to promote interest, education, knowledge and pride in, and facilitate the appreciation and enjoyment of the national heritage". It does this through working with a wide range of stakeholders. It coordinates and promotes European Heritage Days, a joint action of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, known more widely in Ireland as Heritage Week. The week has proven to be enormously successful in raising awareness of heritage issues and engaging the public.

Its primary school programme, Heritage in Schools, for children aged 4-12 yrs is much in demand. The aims of the programme are to get children outdoors to experience local heritage in a hands-on, creative, tactile way. Approximately 120 000 children take part annually.

For more information, see
European Heritage Network: Country profile Ireland

Chapter published: 03-07-2015

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